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Japan, US ministers resume TPP negotiations

TOKYO, April 24 (KUNA) -- Japan and US resumed bilateral talks on the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) free trade deal on Thursday as the two countries' leaders agreed to step up efforts to solve remaining issues.
Japanese Economic Revitalization Minister Akira Amari met again with US Trade Representative Michael Froman to seek a breakthrough in negotiations over the US-led trade pact. The two ministers also held marathon talks on Wednesday in their last-minute effort to reach a broad agreement ahead of a summit meeting here between Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and US President Barack Obama, but failed to bridge the gaps between their respective demands.
At the summit meeting on Thursday, Abe and Obama agreed to step up efforts to solve remaining issues. Abe said at a joint press conference after the summit that the two leaders instructed Amari and Froman to continue their talks on reaching an agreement on the TPP.
"Japan is now playing a major role in taking the lead on the TPP negotiations along with the US. Creating a large economic zone in the Asia-Pacific region will produce major results not only for Japan and the US, but for other Asian nations as well," Abe said.
For his part, Obama said American manufacturers and farmers need to have meaningful access to markets included in the TPP, including Japan. "Japan has the opportunity, in part through TPP, to play a key leadership role in the Asia-Pacific region. Now is the time for bold steps that are needed to reach a comprehensive agreement. I continue to believe this can be done," the president added.
The two sides remain divided on tariffs on sensitive agricultural products and automobiles. Differences between Japan and the US, the two biggest economies in the 12-country trade talks, are regarded as a stumbling block to conclude overall TPP negotiations.
The TPP countries -- Australia, Brunei, Canada, Chile, Japan, Malaysia, Mexico, New Zealand, Peru, Singapore, the US and Vietnam account for almost 40 percent of global gross domestic product (GDP) and about one-third of all world trade.
Obama arrived here Wednesday evening for a three-day visit. Japan is the first leg of his four-nation Asian tour that will also take him to South Korea, Malaysia and the Philippines. (pickup previous) mk.hb